I don’t have any answers for these topics I’m raising; I’m only ranting about a couple of topics that have been annoying me the last few years.
I was watching Hal Lindsey’s Bible prophecy show this evening. I usually like this guy’s teachings (or used to; over the years, I’ve lost some interest in Bible prophecy. One can only stand hearing oh- so- many “the world is ending soon!” type lectures and attempts to figure out who the Anti Christ is before it all gets a little old).
Lindsey was explaining today why sometimes a Christian’s prayers may go unanswered – and I’ve also seen pastor Charles Stanley, other Christian television personalities, and Christians online say the same thing – that is, if your prayers are going unanswered, it could be because you have “unconfessed sin” in your life (they also dole out other possible reasons).
This is a variation of a troubling, annoying, infuriating theme I see among Christians from time to time, from preachers and from Christian family, friends, and acquaintances.
Blame The Victim
Any time one approaches these people with any of life’s disappointments, let downs, struggles, regrets, heart aches, and questions of, “Why doesn’t God do “X” for me, I’ve been praying about it for years?,” these sorts of Christians begin reeling off a list of reasons, such as, “You must have unconfessed sin in your life!,” “You must not have enough faith,” or some such rationale.
I used to enjoy watching pastor Charles Stanley, but either as he’s aged, or I’ve gotten older, I don’t enjoy his shows as much.
Not only does Stanley pressure Christians to live up to some sort of Christian ideal (for example, he oddly pushes people to pray while on their knees, as though doing so is more Christ-like, humble, and proper than praying while seated. Can I tell you based on what I do know of God based on life experience and what I’ve read in the Bible, that God is more concerned with the motives and attitudes of your heart than he is with your prayer posture?)
But Stanley also sometimes takes viewer questions at the end of each show, where he tends to blame people for their own pain or problems, or he sort of evades the question.
People e-mail him with questions, and he reads and replies to these questions at the end of each show.
At least two women, a few years apart, sent him similar questions.
One woman said she feels very lonely (she doesn’t have many friends), and she does not feel God’s presence. She prays daily, attends church, reads her Bible, etc, but still God feels far away. She wants to know where has God gone?
Another woman wrote him about a year ago with the same questions, only she was divorced. She was lonely and God seemed very distant to her, although she was attending church each week, praying, etc.
Stanley always “pins the blame” on the one writing the question, and this drives me nuts.
Some Christians are so obsessed that nobody “blame God” for anything, they try to pin all the blame on the hurting person who raises an issue they’re enduring, so they come up with a list of reasons why you hurt, and almost all of them are your fault.
Stanley, for instance, typically tells such hurting or lonely people that the Bible says the Holy Spirit lives within them, so they’re not truly alone; they must take on faith that God is always with them.
Stanley, if I’m remembering correctly, sometimes tells such letter writers that if they feel alone but don’t feel God with them, it may be that they’re not trying hard enough (not “drawing closer to God” via prayer or not enough Bible reading).
You’re Lonely but You Just Have to Take it on Faith God is With You
To digress for a moment, I don’t like that answer, even if it is true and Biblical (the part about God being with you even though you cannot feel or see Him).
I have never understood how I am to find comfort in Jesus or the Holy Spirit always being with me, if I can never literally see them, hear them, or feel their presence.
If I cannot talk to them, see them, hear them, or feel their presence, then for all means and purposes… I am alone.
If you had a sister, and she said in a letter from 20 years ago that she loves you and you must always just take that on faith, but after that one letter, she never calls, returns your calls, she never visits you in person, and she never sends letters or presents or Christmas cards through the years, wouldn’t you find that strange?
How can someone say in one letter they care about you and will never leave you, but then never phone you or send a card? They are making no effort to stay in touch.
I also don’t get the typical Christian line anymore about how God supposedly wants to have a relationship with us.
I’m not sure about that, since, as I said, God usually doesn’t talk to me. My prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. A relationship takes two to make it work. Even though I talk to God, I usually hear nothing from him. It looks to me like I’m doing all the work at the relationship.
Blame The Victim – Unanswered Prayer
Anyway, when responding to these lonely people (or people who say their prayers are going unheeded), Stanley will tell them they may have unconfessed sin in their life, or maybe unforgiveness in their heart, or they lack trust in God.
This just infuriates me. I have a couple of things I’ve prayed for over many years, and God has turned a deaf ear to, and I’ve done honest inventory: no, I don’t have “unconfessed sin,” or unforgiveness, nor was I lacking faith, or any of the other 100 reasons Christians spout off as to why your prayers are apparently being ignored, or why you’re going through a tough time.
God says in the Bible that Christians are not to do this, by the way (or to be very, very careful when doing this), but Christian pastors and Christian lay persons attempt to prescribe reasons why other people face difficulties. Look at the book of Job and other portions… God says that sometimes prayers go unanswered, or bad things happen to good people, for reasons that are NOT THAT PERSON’S FAULT.
Jesus Christ also taught these principles in the New Testament, in the story of the tower that fell on men and killed them, and when he said to his disciples about a blind man, “This man was not born blind due to his sin but so that the glory of God could be shown through him.”
Do we ever hear these portions of the Bible taught? No (or rarely).
Pastors (or “average Joe Christians” on the internet) are too busy telling you if you are hurting, or your prayers aren’t being answered, it’s because you’re not tithing weekly, you’re lacking faith, you have not forgiven someone, or you are wrapped up in some ongoing sin – and on and on with the blame.
The truth of the matter is that sometimes God’s answer to prayer is NO, no matter how much faith you have (like for a physical healing). God does permit Christians, including very faithful ones, to get sick and die. It happens.
Another fact is that there will be many times in your life when bad things happen to you or to a loved one, or a prayer goes unanswered (from your perspective), and you will never, ever know why in this lifetime.
If you prayed for years for your friend or family member to be healed of cancer, but he or she died any way… I don’t know why that happened. I have no idea why God did not answer your prayer the way you wanted.
Did you pray for your marriage to stay together but your spouse walked out anyway? I have no idea why God permitted that to happen.
You’ve prayed for years for a Christian spouse but have never been married, and you’re now over 35 years old. You feel as though God has forgotten you or turned His back on you, and you don’t understand why. Neither do I.
Even though you’ve sincerely tried being a “good Christian” your whole life, why did you unfairly get fired from your full time job and are now having a hard time obtaining a new one, and God doesn’t seem to be helping you out in this area? I have no idea.
Nobody In This Lifetime Knows Why / Not To Blame
What I won’t do is sit here and tell you it’s your fault, for whatever painful or infuriating thing happened.
It most likely was not your fault.
You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t sin or make God angry. You don’t have unforgiveness in your heart, you had enough faith, and you didn’t have unconfessed sin in your life.
And hearing that this bad thing may have happened to you so that God could “test your faith,” “make your faith stronger” or “make you more Christ-like” or “prepare you for when you rule and reign with Christ one day” are not comforting or satisfying answers, either (so I don’t know why pastors and Christian authors rattle those off).
Guilt Trips or Condemnation For Not Being Super Christian
This next topic also annoys me, and I mentioned it above about Stanley’s penchant for making Christians feel bad or guilty if they don’t say their prayers while literally on their knees, and I also brought this up in an older post about Kyle Idleman’s book and TV show “Not A Fan.”
The topic is Christians who try to lecture, criticize, or make other believers feel guilty for not being “Super Christians.”
On the one hand, I appreciate that such Christians are trying to get other Christians to live more for Christ, but the older I get, I become more and more put-off by Christians (usually pastors) who criticize the rest of us for not being more “selfless,” or for not living every moment doing things such as serving as a missionary in Africa preaching the Gospel to pygmies or building hospitals for orphans in India.
I’m doing the best I can (and you probably are too).
Life is hard enough as it is, and we all have enough on our plates as it is, without other “busy body” Christians shaking their index finger at us on TV shows, or on blogs, lecturing us or “ripping on” us for not spending every single waking moment going all out for Jesus.
I could write ten more pages on this issue alone and may write another blog page about it, but I did want to bring it up in passing.
Christian Codependency – Christians Who Shame You Or Make You Feel Guilty for Having Needs or For Trying to Get Them Met
Tied in with that is the infuriating tendency for Christians to foster and encourage codependent behavior in other Christians.
Typically when laying on the lectures or guilt trips at viewers for not doing enough for Jesus, these Christian TV pastors, blog writers, or Christian TV hosts, will chide viewers for having needs, or for trying to get those needs met.
I was watching “Life Today” a couple days ago. (Most of the time, I find much of the show’s content acceptable, except they have too many guests on who believe in and spout off heretical “prosperity gospel” messages and the like.)
“Life Today” is a Christian show hosted by James Robison and his wife. They mostly seem like nice people, but every so often, Mr. Robison says something I don’t fully agree with.
Robison at one point during his show looked into the camera and said (I am paraphrasing here, since I cannot recall his exact words but his comments were something like this):
“And Mr. Jones, my Christian friend who had recently converted, showed up to my church one day asking how he can serve!
He was on fire for Jesus and wanted to know how he can help orphans! He’s not like all those selfish Christians who show up whining at church asking how they can get their needs met!
So many Christians who go to church only care about THEIR needs and getting THEIR needs met! Howdy, not Mr Jones; Mr Jones has the Father’s heart, he wants to know how God can use him to meet the needs of other people! He has a TRUE servant’s heart!!”
Is Mr. Robison not aware of the fact that:
1. every person on the planet, including Christians!, has needs – not just orphans or kids who lack clean water in Africa; and
2. the Bible tells Christians to go to church (that is, go to other believers) to get their needs met!
Why are so many Christians adverse to Christians doing what the Bible tells them to do (get their needs met by other Christians)?
The church’s purpose (and this is in the Bible) is NOT ONLY to spread the Gospel to the lost and to give bread to the (unsaved, pagan, Non Christian) hungry, but Christ and the Father established the church so that believers could lean on and help and comfort one another through struggles and problems.
But why do so many Christians overlook this or ignore it, or act angry about it??
If Christian “Mary Smith” goes to a church or another believer for help or comfort during her time of trouble, many Christians (such as Robison) rudely or condescendingly lecture her that she is supposedly “being selfish,” “having a pity party, which is a sin,” “not thinking of God enough” “should be helping orphans instead of looking for help for herself,” or she “should just pray and read her Bible more.”
These people would never dream of lambasting a hurting starving African orphan kid with those sorts of comments (such as, “Stop whining about not having clean water, kid, and just read your Bible more! Think about God more and less about your lack of water! Stop focusing on getting your needs met and think about all the hungry orphans in India you ingrate!”), but they don’t hesitate doing this to hurting believers.
(Link): Women: Stop Asking Pat Robertson For Romantic Relationship Advice – Whether You Are Divorced or Single – Pat Robertson Replies to Letter from Four Time Divorced Woman Who Wants to Know If God Will Send Her a Non-Abusive Husband